You’re the first person in the office. You’re never late to a meeting. Your teeth are as bright as the sun and you never get less than eight hours of sleep. You’re a part of a select group of people who operate in this world without drinking coffee. For the most part, it’s a good thing. You don’t have to deal with the restlessness, anxiety or insomnia, you don’t need anything more than a tall glass of water to feel awake in the morning and you’re (hopefully) saving some money by not running to Blue Bottle five times a week. You’re going to do really well when the apocalypse hits and society as we know it is destroyed.
And yet, we (currently) live in a coffee fueled world. Business meetings happen at coffee shops. Friends get together at coffee shops. First dates meet at coffee shops. They’re communal spaces that permeate cities and small towns and everything in between. Even if you rarely “meet people for coffee”, you’ve killed time in a coffee shop.
Which means, you need to have a game plan. While every coffee shop has non-coffee options, they’re far from equal. Some will offer the same teabags you could buy at a grocery store for far less (I can buy Lipton myself, thanks) and some have their own fancy blends. If you’re going to spend time in a living monument to coffee, you might as well go to a place that also caters to you. The next time your coworker / Tinder date / friend you see once a year asks you to get coffee, you know exactly where to go.
Alright, alright. Tea does have caffeine in it, but in most cases it’s significantly less tea than your average cup of brewed coffee.
D.C.’s largest local coffee chain has a million options if you’re a coffee drinker, but it’s also decently stacked when it comes to tea. Their Moroccan Mint and Lavender Earl Grey are both a personal favorite, but they also boast more interesting options like Raspberry Rose and matcha tea. Compass gets extra points for having a ton of locations and for being so well known, you probably don’t even have to suggest it. More likely than not your coffee meeting / date / ambush is already happening on one of its thousand 7th Street location. I swear to go there’s a Compass on every corner of 7th Street.
While it has a smaller tea selection and less locations, Filter has my favorite iced tea, hands down. It doesn’t feel like summer (or spring) until it’s warm enough to enjoy their iced coconut black tea. It’s subtle and simple, but it feels like what Queen of England would drink if she was a parrothead… or what Jimmy Buffett might drink if he was feeling extra refined. If I could spend summer walking around with an IV of the stuff, I would.
Consistently rated as one of the best coffee shops in D.C., Peregrin Espresso doesn’t hold back when it comes to tea. They have a variety options like your classic black teas and green teas, but my personal favorite is the Iron Goddess of Mercy, an oolong loose leaf that packs a rich and nutty flavor. A cup of this will help cure any hangover. It’s the slice of serenity you need when battling Union Market’s weekend crowds. Its heavy metal name doesn’t hurt either.
If you want to flip the tables on your coffee loving friends, this is the place to do it. Calabash might have great coffee, but it’s far from the focus on owner Sunyatta Amen’s exhaustive menu. At Calabash, you’ll find everything from teas to boost your love life to teas that will soothe your anxiety and help you get a goodnight sleep. The “baristas” (for lack of a better word) are trained to help you figure out which tea you need to make your day (or life better) and start most conversations with questions like, “How can we heal you today?” There’s not a place in D.C. like it.
Ceremony Coffee supplies its beans to coffee shops all over D.C., but if you want the full experience, you have to hit up one of their many Maryland shops. Their Mt. Vernon location specifically is my favorite coffee shop in the world. It’s light, bright, airy and is one of those coffee shops where you feel like you shouldn’t talk above a whisper, if at all. Everything about Ceremony is purposeful, including their tea service; pots of tea come out in crystal clear erlenmeyer flasks delicately carried on small wooden trays. It’s weird, it’s ridiculous, I love it and you will too.